2014 Media Releases

A call for victims of sexual abuse with experience of the Melbourne Response to come forward

Thursday 6 November 2014
RETIRED Federal Court Judge, the Hon. Donnell Ryan QC, who is conducting an independent review of the Melbourne Response, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s process for managing sexual abuse claims, has called on victims of sexual abuse who have experience of the Melbourne Response to come forward and share their views on the compensation awarded, and how the process could be improved.

(The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, announced in April that he would commission a Review of the process available under the Melbourne Response for compensating victims of sexual abuse by priests, lay persons and religious under the control of the Melbourne Archdiocese. He appointed Mr Ryan to conduct the review in August 2014)

‘The management of sexual abuse claims, particularly the impacts both positive and negative that the existing processes have on victims, is clearly a very important issue.

Any recommendations which emerge from the Review will need to ensure that the Melbourne Response takes full account of what is required to recognise and, as far as possible, alleviate the suffering of victims.

To that end, I am concerned to hear not only from victims but also from their relatives, counsellors, clinicians, legal advisers and others involved in the process.  This can be by written submissions or by private hearing or personal interview with me.

Particular care will be taken not to create further trauma for anybody involved in the process, so the means by which submissions are received will be adapted as sensitively as possible to individual circumstances.

I understand from the Terms of Reference of my appointment that the overall objective of this Review is to ensure that the best possible arrangements are made for victims to seek redress which truly recognizes the abuse they have suffered and the effect of that abuse on their lives.’ Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan has identified the following issues as requiring particular attention in the course of the Review :

(a)          Whether the maximum amount of compensation which can be awarded under the Melbourne Response (currently $75,000) should be increased by any and what amount or removed altogether?

(b)          Whether the amount of compensation payable to victims under the Melbourne Response should continue to be assessed by a Compensation Panel?

(c)           If yes to (b), whether there should be any change to the procedures or principles adopted by the Compensation Panel in assessing awards of compensation?

(d)          Whether victims should be given more encouragement to seek independent legal advice before accepting an award of compensation?

(e)          Whether the Melbourne Response should provide a mechanism for review of, or an appeal from;

(i)            determinations of an Independent Commissioner that abuse has occurred;

(ii)           an award of compensation which has not been accepted by an applicant;

(iii)          a past award of compensation which has been accepted by an applicant who subsequently wishes to re-open the matter?

(f)           Whether the Melbourne Response should be expanded to provide for awards for compensation or other assistance to secondary victims of abuse (in addition to the counselling and pastoral care already made available)?

(g)          Whether the obligations of confidentiality presently imposed on victims at any stage of the process administered under the Melbourne Response should be relaxed in any respect or removed altogether?

(h)          Whether any steps should be taken to make apologies tendered to victims on behalf of the Archdiocese more acceptable to each victim and more responsive to his or her specific circumstances?

Mr Ryan said that he wanted to make it clear that while he will be reviewing how compensation for victims has been assessed in the past and recommending whether any changes should be made in the future he will not be re-opening any past decision of the Independent Commissioner or the Compensation Panel.

‘I shall consider whether there should be provision for appealing or reviewing past payments, how that review should be done and by whom but I do not propose to re-open individual cases’. Mr Ryan said.

The Review will proceed on the assumption that there will be a need for the Melbourne Response to continue to investigate complaints and provide compensation to victims at least until an alternative mechanism has been established as a result of recommendations made in Betrayal of Trust or by the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Submissions may be made in writing or orally.  Submissions should be directed to one or more of issues (a) to (h) noted above or otherwise relevant to the Terms of Reference for the Review.  A copy of the formal Notice of Review is available at www.cam.org.au/RyanReview.

Oral submissions will be received in a private hearing or interview or in the course of a ‘round table’ discussion, as preferred by each person making a submission.  Anybody attending to make an oral submission may be accompanied by a relative, friend or other support person. The confidentiality of each submission may be completely or partly preserved according to the wishes of the person making the submission. 

A request for an opportunity to make a submission should be made in writing outlining the substance of the proposed submission.  Any such request should be addressed to The Independent Reviewer, Mr Donnell Ryan QC, GPO Box 2161, MELBOURNE  VIC  3001 or emailed to compensationreview@gmail.com and be received by 21 November 2014.

Authorised by The Hon D M Ryan QC.